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What Earth Without People Would Look Like 671

Raynor writes "Imagine a world without people. What if every human being, all 6.5 billion of us, were suddenly abducted and the planet was left to fend for itself? The planet would heal. 'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,' says John Orrock, a conservation biologist. Pollution would cease being created. It would remain around for many years, CO2 taking as long as 20,000 years to be restored to it's natural level, but will decrease. Even if we were all whisked away and our nuclear reactors melted down, it would have a surprisingly little effect on the planet. Chernobyl gives hope to this end. 'I really expected to see a nuclear desert there,' says Ronald Chesser, an environmental biologist. 'I was quite surprised. When you enter into the exclusion zone, it's a very thriving ecosystem.' In the grand scheme of the world there would be little evidence of our existence at 100,000 years. The most permanent piece is the radio waves we've emitted of the last century. As the article puts it, 'The humbling — and perversely comforting — reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.'"
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What Earth Without People Would Look Like

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  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:44PM (#16493527) Homepage Journal
    "What if every human being, all 6.5 billion of us, were suddenly abducted and the planet was left to fend for itself? The planet would heal."

    This excess anthropomorphising has reached a new heights for slashdrivel.

    We are not hurting the planet with pollution. We are primarily hurting each other. As TFA notes, we have left very few permanent traces on the earth. Pollution is - or ought to be - a tort.

    PS: and we should continue as the dominant species on the planet. If we don't the chimps will take over.
    PPS: and if Mr. Orrock, the writer of the article, thinks that the global demise of the human species is a good idea, I invite him to act locally. Very locally.
  • Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chacham (981) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:45PM (#16493545) Homepage Journal
    'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,'

    But for what purpose? That's like never opening a package, so it never gets finished.

    Who would even appreciate it? Is the Earth something so deistic and magical that's its mere existence is good enough by itself? Or, is some alien race (no doubt evilly destroying their own planet) going to come by and appreciate its pristine beauty?

    The planet is here, and we are using it. We are becoming better, and making it more capable. To say that to conserve, take notice, and be proactive, to make it last longer, is not only true, but it is helpful. To say, however, that if we were gone it would be better, is an unproven theory, and would remain unproven, being noone would be here to care.

    Growth takes a toll somewhere. But not for naught. The Earth is here for us, and we have made quite some progress based on her resources. There's no reason to replace our pride with some pessimistic view that promotes nihilism in some strange way.
  • Humans are Entropy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn @ g m a i l . com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:46PM (#16493555) Journal
    'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,'
    What's sad about that? Do you cry every night knowing that the time you spent in your house added to its deterioration?

    You can view this as we are abnormalities in our ecosystem. We are atypical organisms living beyond what we are supposed to.

    Or you can acknowledge that if other organisms were intelligent enough to make their existence better for them (at the expense of others), they would. That's one of the laws of nature and we're just reverting back to our primal instincts. Now, we're fairly civil and modest in reproducing and killing, so we're a bit better than the animals in that respect. If we chose to acknowledge that we're destroying earth for the rest of the organisms, it would probably be both civil and intelligent. Unfortunately, about half of us don't give a shit. Well, that's what we deal with.

    Every organism is in competition for resources with every other organism in some way. A symbiosis rarely occurs and when it does, it's usually forced (humans raising cattle for milk).

    Is there any scenario we can reach where we won't destroy the environment?

    Probably not but, in my opinion, humans are entropy.

    The humbling - and perversely comforting - reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.
    And, if you acknowledge the very long history of the earth, we are remarkably new to the earth. The dinosaurs had a longer reign and they are forgotten with the exception of their bones.
  • even better! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quadraginta (902985) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:48PM (#16493595)
    Bah, this fellow lacks imagination.

    Imagine how beautifully clean and preserved the planet would be without life of any type! No more messy leaf litter, buzzing flies around dungheaps, the occasional lightning-sparked forest fire besmudging the sky with ugly smoke...
  • Alien perspective? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Retardican (1006101) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:49PM (#16493607) Homepage
    Humans have altered the environment extensively throughout our existence. An alien species visiting us 5000 years ago would have noticed all the farming, extensive irrigation, not to mention a pyramid or two sticking out. Without humanity, would Earth be as interesting?
  • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:50PM (#16493623)
    In 1.5 billion years the sun will start to grow into a red giant and solar winds winds will strip the Earth of its atmosphere.

    Then in about 5 billion years after that, the sun will have consumed the Earth and whatever life remains on it.

    (Source) []

    This is of course barring large iron metorites or collision with large space bodies and of course a passing of another solor system or galaxy in the meantime.

    So if man went away tomorrow... Life would be peachy for nature for a while, but then it would die by itself due to reasons far beyond non-intelligents life control (unless dolphins evolve into space faring creatures on their own)

    So nature has to put up with man for a while to we figure out how to get off this rock... Or get used to not being around in a few billion years.
  • Hold on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by numbsafari (139135) <swilson@bsd4us.oPASCALrg minus language> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:53PM (#16493673)
    While I kill myself to repent...

    What a stupid and lame discussion. Of course we have an impact on the earth. So do insects, cows and bacteria.

    The rocks would be happier without the moss.

    The questions shouldn't be about what if we all leave, they should be about how can we maintain an environment hospitable to us. That includes reducing pollution and expanding the "wild zones" and "gardens" of "terra firma".

    Should we all just stop existing because, oh dear, we might actually have an impact on the rest of the world?
  • This is funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:55PM (#16493715) Homepage Journal
    Chernobyl gives hope to this end. 'I really expected to see a nuclear desert there,' says Ronald Chesser, an environmental biologist. 'I was quite surprised. When you enter into the exclusion zone, it's a very thriving ecosystem.'

    Uh, what? Why would you expect to see a nuclear desert there? Armed with some research papers and some estimates of how much nuclear material was released, it should have been easy enough to figure out that no, all life will not fail. In fact the plants are doing great (and some of the shorter-lived animals) because there aren't a bunch of people running around destroying them.

    Anyway, this is not a big surprise. There are some indications that it might rebound even faster than these studies suggest. One of the major indications is the continued presence of complex animals (like land-based vertebrates) after all the cataclysms which have occurred since they first crawled out of the ocean. I mean we only even know about a few and some of them are major impacts, some are ice ages, etc.

    Just as an example the earth has a built-in mechanism for regulating global temperature. As temperatures rise, the ice caps melt, and sea levels rise. This has two major effects: One, it leads to additional evaporation, which causes cooling; the other is that it covers more land, which results in more light being reflected back into space, which also causes cooling. This pitches things towards an ice age; the globe cools, the ice caps refreeze, the sea level falls, evaporation decreases, more land is exposed, the earth retains more sunlight and the planet heats up. The cycle continues.

    Of course, we may not be too happy about this, and there are things that we can do to make a difference and maybe (at some point) stabilize the system. Every year we put out (as a species, on average) something like 20 times as much CO2 as active surface volcanoes...

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@y a h o o . com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:59PM (#16493763) Homepage Journal
    for nuclear.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:00PM (#16493773) Homepage Journal

    We are not hurting the planet with pollution. We are primarily hurting each other. As TFA notes, we have left very few permanent traces on the earth. Pollution is - or ought to be - a tort.

    Just like a lot of things, the rich can affect the poor by having the capacity to do more harm by wielding wealth. The foolish can too, but not to anywhere near the same extent.

    As an example, consider Joan Q. Public; buzzing back and forth in her compact which gets 30 MPG. Aside from a few drips from an oil leak and some evaporated (or leaked) coolant, she's not having a major impact. Now consider John F. Doe; charging between stop signs in his 4WD with monster tyres which achieves an average of 12 MPG and worse, he's fiddled his exhaust for that sound which can leave no trace of doubt in anyone's mind, that he indeed has a very small reproductive organ. Then there's Harriet T. Grundgeworth, with her private jet, zipping around between New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, she's got so many things to do and people to see and appearances to make, not by some car do we guage her MPG, but in all the miles it is essential for her to cover. She makes John F. Doe look like he couldn't properly achieve a bathtub ring compared to her footprint on the enviroment.

  • by daveb (4522) <> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:01PM (#16493791) Homepage
    But Linux would not prevail - at best Windows and Linux have equal market share
  • Better? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by venicebeach (702856) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:02PM (#16493793) Homepage Journal
    'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better'
    Better for whom?
  • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dan828 (753380) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:04PM (#16493829)
    Actually, did you not find it amusing that during the course of all of this speculation about what would happen on the earth without humans, the guy makes the point that he was totally wrong in his thoughts about what the area around Chernobyl would be like?

    The guy basically tells us that his predictions about ecosystems are for crap anyways, so why the heck should we listen to his current one?
  • by dominion (3153) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:09PM (#16493899) Homepage
    Probably the biggest PR mistake that environmentalists ever made was that they made their activism about "The Earth", and not about our ability to survive on it.

    Nature is a resilient bitch. We could hardly do the kind of damage necessary to make Earth unlivable by something.

    We can, however, make life very unpleasant for mankind. And that's why we need to preserve the environment as best as possible. For us, not the environment.
  • Re:Hold on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dedazo (737510) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:12PM (#16493943) Journal
    What a stupid and lame discussion. Of course we have an impact on the earth. So do insects, cows and bacteria

    Not to seem pedantic here and all, but man is the only animal species that actually destroys ecosystems and causes the extincion of other species that are not in his food chain. We are also the only species that is incapable of existing in an ecological balance. We have an inordinate amount of impact on the planet. Elk and bacteria haven't yet industrialized the production of resources (and the elimination of its byproducts), as far as I know.

    Having said that, I have a feeling that there wouldn't be much of a point to the existence of man if we weren't supposed to be doing what we do (albeit in a less destructive manner, ideally). Maybe destroying your surroundings goes along with being sentient and having opposable thumbs? Who knows. Unfortunately we don't have a frame of reference for these types of things.

  • I don't buy it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rob Kaper (5960) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:13PM (#16493961) Homepage
    We find dinosaur bones after a hundred of millions of years. But there wouldn't be a single trace of the gigantic structures we've built? Sounds unlikely. I'm surely one of those concrete buildings will accidently not get meddled with too much (and in turn shield its contents a little better). If in just a few million years our presence would go unnoticed by an intelligence similar to our own, then wouldn't that imply that for all we know this hypothesis actually did happen to the dinosaurs and possibly species before (or even since) them?

  • by iocat (572367) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:15PM (#16493993) Homepage Journal
    We're not abnormalities. We were created by the eco-system. Then we gamed the (eco)system and beat it. Think our lack of fur makes us unable to survive ice-ages or cold climates? Fuck you, eco-system, we're going to kill some animals and wear their fur! No wings? Fuck you, eco-system, we're making planes! No gills? Again, fuck you eco-system, we're busy evolving Jacques Cousteau and a crazy machine that lets us breathe underwater! Antibiotics -- win for us. Language -- win for us. Brains filled with the ability to learn -- win for us. Crazy-ass opposable thumbs -- win for us. Neil Armstrong -- win for us.

    We're the winners. We rule. As a species, we're at the top of every single food chain on earth, local irregularities notwithstanding (for instance, I would not try to argue this point with a bear, shark or tiger). As long as, as a species, we act smart, we're likely to stay there. That means being responsible, not wrecking things for the next generation, conserving what we have, acting sustainably, and if needed, figuring how to removing unstable elements and memes from our global society (religious fundementalists, dictators with nukes and itchy trigger fingers, etc.). (Oh, and figuring out how to get off this rock long term, so we can beat the sun at its "burn out after a billion years" game too.)

    You're free to disagree with me, but I like being on the winning team as a species. I am much happier as a videogame-enjoying human than I would be as an anonymous ferret or weasel or whatever.

  • so what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquar ... m minus language> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:19PM (#16494077) Homepage Journal
    this is assuming humanity is some sort of scourge, a fungal growth. first off, you reading this right now are human, so to think of humanity in this way is just some sort self-hatred like a depressed teenaged wanker

    fine, go hate yourself. but don't think that your self-hatred is a component of all of us or has any power over your fellow man. i for one have faith in humanity in doing the right thing. am i stupid? am i crazy?

    i don't know. humanity could fail. but i also know that giving up on humanity entirely guarantees that you will fail. so have some simple faith in your fellow man. or, frankly, shut up. because you're not helping anything with empty pointless doubt and pessimism

    constructive criticism is helpful. but empty gloomy pessimism is worth absolutely nothing at all. it is self-fulfilling prophecy to doubt the future of mankind. if you don't believe in the future, you sit there, and you do nothing, and therefore ensure that there is no future. that means you are just damage to be routed around. you're not helpful or useful to anyone else in any way if you don't believe in a future

    and you are quite arrogant if you think no one else believes in a future either, that your lack of faith is supposed to have any meaning to anyone around you. lack of faith does not beat faith. lack of faith doesn't grow anything, it doesn't spread, it just dies. it's just damage to be routed around. faith is something that creates and grows and spreads. faith always beats lack of faith, because it acts and creates. lack of faith just sits there, inert and useless

    join in humanity in faith, or go away, and shut up. seriously, if you don't believe in the future of humanity, why are you talking? there's no future right? so what's the point of trying to add anything? you're not being constructive. being constructive is based on the supposition that it's the worth the effort, that there is a future worth working towards

    so make up your mind:
    1. keep talking. therefore affirming that you were wrong. that there is good in humanity worth working for after all
    2. shut up. therefore reaffirming your stated belief that humanity is doomed

    but to continue talking, and not believe in a future, is not a logically cohesive position for anyone to take on the subject of humanity. it's an unfounded and incoherent position in life. so work it out, teenaged human, and get back to us later when you are worth something to yourself and others and have words worth our time for us to listen to
  • Just plain stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr&terralogic,net> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:20PM (#16494083)
    This is just plain stupid. Nice he harps on CO2.

    Little does he know. During the Ordovician CO2 levels were 13x to 17x higher than now. The earth slipped into a deep freeze snowball phase during this time. Throughout the Carboniferous CO2 levels were much higher than now. Back in the PreCambrian CO2 was much higher than now... up into the 80,000 ppm range in fact compared to 370 ppm now.

    So not only is the story just plain tripe - it is also based on a poor understanding of the history of the planet.

    I always thought the Dinosaurs were the most dominant life form. Give me a break!
  • Incorrect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MushMouth (5650) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:21PM (#16494099) Homepage
    Environmentalists already knew this, we want not to save the trees, they won't have any trouble in the future. We want to keep the planet habitable for the human race.
  • Bah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:21PM (#16494109) Homepage Journal
    If terrestrial life "wants" to outlive this Sun, it needs us. Or some critter like us that can use its big brain to invent interstellar space travel. Otherwise the whole exericse will be proven pointless in a couple billion years give or take. Of course there are a lot of pointless exercises in evolution and it's entirely possible we're just one of those. We'll just have to wait for the run to finish and see what happened.
  • Re:Moo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:22PM (#16494115) Homepage Journal
    Life on Earth generally got along just fine for several billion years without humans. I can't exactly say that we've done life on earth any good by driving more species to extinction, more than any other thing save (IIRC) about six major extinction disasters in Earth's history.

    The Earth is here for us

    It would be accurate to say that the Earth is here, but to say it is here for a specific species is a bit much because that's an unprovable claim as far as anyone can tell. For example, we might just be here simply because the circumstances happened to be right, or if you say Earth was placed here or made through some intelligent process, how do you know that it wasn't made for whatever species that will replace us?
  • by GrahamCox (741991) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:26PM (#16494183) Homepage
    We are atypical organisms living beyond what we are supposed to

    "Supposed to" as decided by whom? Like any evolved creature, we just do what we can to maximise our own advantage, without any real consideration of the consequences. Then, if a certain route turns out to be sufficiently disadvantageous, we modify our behaviour accordingly. Nothing is ever thought through properly because a) we don't know enough facts to make prediction possible, b) our brains are not sophisticated enough to do it and b) the system is chaotic in the mathemeatical sense anyway, so maybe it just cannot be predicted.
    Basically, we push until it gets fucked up, then the balance is shifted in favour of some other behaviour, or perhaps even another species. It's what has always happened, and it's what will always happen. The planet and its ecosystems don't "care", it just IS.

    Didn't you hear? We just jumped out of a tree.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:28PM (#16494199)
    Well, if your city has 2 million people, and currently 1 in a million get cancer from their exhaust, that's two people in the city.

    I propose a solution: this representative has to hand over two of his closest family members (wife or children) to be executed in exchange for leaving emissions levels at their current state. If he doesn't think two people are important, let's take away two people from his family.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:33PM (#16494255) Homepage Journal
    You laugh, but China's population is seriously unbalanced. There's not enough women for something in excess of twenty percent of China's men. They're either going to have to have a war (a really big one, or one where they sacrifice a lot of troops) or embrace homosexuality because the rest of the world's women don't want them - Chinese men typically do not have much respect for women, it's not exactly a cultural value for them.
  • by OakDragon (885217) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:50PM (#16494449) Journal
    How many species of animal and plant have become extinct since man became the dominant species on this planet?

    How about before we became the dominant species? Not as sexy a question, is it.

    A fairer question might be "For how many extinct species is mankind responsible?"

  • by Cesa (972909) <cesa37&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:56PM (#16494521)
    We're not abnormalities. We were created by the eco-system. Then we gamed the (eco)system and beat it.

    Say that again next time mother nature sends a hurricane, tornado etc. Or even worse, a large asteroid. I would say we are quite vunerable, and that won't change until we have settlements on other celestial bodies that are (or could become) self-sufficient.
  • by bluewhale (764435) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:11PM (#16494663)
    I don't understand, why do we have to come up with arguments that belittle us all the time. As a species I say we kicked ass BIG time. Humanity is the ONLY hope for life, hope to move to another planet or even a new solar system in a million years. who knows. If it's not for us all the plants and animals would just die burning to hell when the sun becomes a red-giant asshole [] in about 4 billion years.

    And if it's not been for us the earth would be greener, less polluted and all the glaciers wouldn't be melting now. So? who cares? There won't be anyone to appreciate it. All the life forms would be busy killing each other and reproducing. No man-kind and life will just die away in a few billion years.

    The problem lies in realising our importance and getting our act together and trying to figure out a way out of earth and not ending up bombing the whole planet to death.

  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:23PM (#16494819)
    Animals hurt the planet they live on too. Throughout evolution, there have been entire species killed off by more dominant species, and groups of animals have spread to other areas and changed the environment there to the detriment of what already lived there.

    I think some people put up an anti-mankind mindset to make themselves feel like they're hip and intellectual, and I doubt our impact on the environment is as great as global warming alarmists have made it out to be (I notice Slashdot didn't report about the lack of an active hurricane season this year or the recent below-average temperatures).
  • Re:This is funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:26PM (#16494863) Homepage Journal

    Sigh. I quote:

    The main ice covered landmass is Antarctica at the South Pole, with about 90 percent of the world's ice (and 70 percent of its fresh water). Antarctica is covered with ice an average of 2,133 meters (7,000 feet) thick. If all of the Antarctic ice melted, sea levels around the world would rise about 61 meters (200 feet). But the average temperature in Antarctica is -37C, so the ice there is in no danger of melting. In fact in most parts of the continent it never gets above freezing.

    (from [])

    That's right, one of those ice caps is sitting on a land mass. It's not floating. If you melted all that ice, which would require a runaway condition but is not impossible no matter what anyone at howstuffworks says (yeah, it really makes sense that since it has never melted inside human experience, it will never melt, great logic there.)

    But, nice try.

  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:26PM (#16494871)

    That's a rather arrogant statement to make.

    It's a statement of fact.

    Could you honestly survive in the wilderness without all your creature comforts, gadgets and microwave meals?

    Unless he suffers from a few ailments that would be certain death in a low-tech environment, he can. The key is that he doesn't have to.

    Even though we're 'more advanced', is that what will enable you personally to survive? If we've got everything under control, how the fuck do you explain the fact that Hurricane Katrina even made landfall, never mind the humanitarian aftermath?

    I don't see the point. It was cheaper to do what happened (ie, move everyone out of the way) rather than attempt to divert a hurricane. Several hundred thousand people moved out of the way in under three days notice, pretty much. If New Orleans' government hadn't screwed up so badly, it probably would be another inconvenience like most hurricanes. Even if Katrina had hit directly as a category 5 hurricane and washed the place out, they could always rebuild the city there or somewhere else.
  • Adios, Amoebas! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by antispam_ben (591349) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:56PM (#16495117) Journal
    Quoting that link:

    One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, "What good are you?"

    Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, "We're no better than bacteria!"

    I've heard estians, aka estholes (est, renamed Landmark Forum) say "We're all just tubes."

    SPOILER: Have barf bag ready as you read:

    The tubes thing refers to the human digestive system - our sole purpose in life is to eat and shit.

    The "environmentalist" movement was taken over by socialists/anti-capitalists (if it looks like they have more than one agenda, it's because they do), but even more, they want to reprogram everyone's mind, just like a cult. "We're all no better than bacteria."

    They're debasing the whole of humanity. How quaint.
  • by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @08:01PM (#16495159) Homepage
    There is an interesting fact that people seem to forget. Cars are the clean option. Let me explain. At the end of the 19th century, all major cities were covered in horse shit. It was everywhere. You couldn't step on the street without stepping in maneure. It was a health nightmare, and was responsible for a good amount of the lower life expectancy back then.

    Then cars came along. Cars did not eat or poop. They didn't chew through street lamp poles while idle or spread disease amongst eachother. Cars, in fact, were one of the most environmentally sound technologies to come out of the time.

    Fast forward 100 years, and we have asthma epidemics. The global temperature is rising little by little. The ice caps are melting. But we don't have to worry about massive disease pandemics spread by animal feces and the rats that live off of it. We have a transportation source that produces less C02 (and a lot less methane) per trip than having one horse per person would, and it doesn't impinge burden on the world's food supply. Again, cars are the clean option.

    If we manage our technology like farmers, rotating the impact we have on the environment with every new technological generation, there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to continue indefinitely. Or at least there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to continue for long enough to learn how to clean up this rock.

    All environmental projections assume we're going to continue doing exactly what we're doing indefinitely. And, of course, under those circumstances we'll eventually drain the resources, build up a mountain of a particular toxin, and die. In the 1900's it was biologically active fly bait. At the end of 2000 it is C02. 100 years from now (hopefully) it will be something else. As long as we keep looking for that something else, and keep giving the damaged parts of the environment time to recover, we should be OK.

    In other words, cheer up emo kid [].
  • by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @08:14PM (#16495289)
    is there any reason to think we are the first intelligent species to appear on this planet.

          What, apart from the mice and the dolphins?

          Seriously, mineral deposits. We take huge deposits of minerals and suck out the pure minerals we need. Then we spread 'em around the whole world in the products we produce. Finally, we lay them to rest in garbage dumps, landfills, etc, mixed in with a whole bunch of other relatively pure substances. Now assuming an intelligent species built tools and produced things out of their environment, there should be very few places left where one could find concentrations of a single mineral, and a lot of places where we could find homogenous deposits of "waste" minerals. Just a thought.
  • Re: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WhiplashII (542766) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @09:20PM (#16495929) Homepage Journal
    There are presumably millions of planets like ours in our galaxy alone - what would be the point in having another one without intelligent life? Why do people think that a world without humans is better than one with humans? Why is a green, leafy planet inherently better than a radioactive wasteland?

    Because of human values - the same human values that the author is talking about eliminating in such a positive light.

    You green guys are so wierd! Earth has no value except to be used by humans - I can understand preservation and conservation in the context of preserving value for future humans, but the humans must come first, not nature (or other animals)!
  • by quickgold192 (1014925) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @09:34PM (#16496095)
    Actually, the environment has been changing (and will continue to change) beyond what we consider 'equilibrium' without humans. Global warming through excess CO2 was happening well before life developed here and I don't think any conservationist would call the ice age optimal for current life. The environment changes, and trying to conserve its current state is impossible.
  • by Shihar (153932) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:24PM (#16496961)
    We're hurting each other and also other animals and plant life on this planet. How many species of animal and plant have become extinct since man became the dominant species on this planet?

    Every single species vanishes. Go back far enough and every single species that once was is no longer. Everything goes extinct in the end. I am not advocating wanton destruction, but simply pointing out that the "ideal" of dropping the world into a Ziploc bag and preserving it forever is a completely human desire that evolution and natural selection doesn't give a shit about. All the humans could vanish tomorrow and that still wouldn't prevent every single species on Earth from going extinct at one point or another.

    So, instead of worshipping and unchanging Earth as some quasi-mystical religion, how about we focus on something that matters? We should be preserving our own asses. Part of saving ourselves might very well mean taking a good hard look at how we are changing the planet. Mother Nature does not give two shits if we cook the Earth and will happily (if nature could feel feelings - which it can't) cook up some happily little bacteria that loves CO2 and warm weather. The humans on the other hand might find it getting mighty uncomfortable.

    So screw this quasi-mystical Mother Nature crap. Mother Nature doesn't give a shit about the species of this planet and it doesn't care if all the bunnies die. We are the ones who care. We care if the world becomes inhospitable to us. We should be working to improve the environment not because of some deluded worship of the Earth in its exact current state which is going to pass regardless if we like it or not, but should be working to improve the environment for our own sake.
  • Re:I don't buy it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by regular_gonzalez (926606) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:55PM (#16497233)
    We can assume that no intelligent life existed on Earth before man due to the abundance of natural resources (such as oil, coal, iron, copper, etc) in easily accessible locations. If man screws it up and makes himself extinct, that's it for intelligent life on Earth -- the next creatures to evolve a semblance of intelligence will not have access to the necessary raw materials to create a civilization for themselves. All the easy-to-reach resources have been largely exhausted, necessitating the development of technologies as deep drilling and strip mining. These techs would be unavailable to future creatures, as they implicitly depend upon having tools already.
  • by Dasher42 (514179) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @03:04AM (#16498415)
    In other words, you're happily dependent on infrastructure based on rapidly dwindling resources, living in a largely simulated world. When was the last time the power went out for a week where you're at?

    Somehow, I can't consider consumption of the world to the point of widespread destruction "winning", but some people never get past just counting the frags.
  • by elucido (870205) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @03:16AM (#16498453)
    All the while, when we were killing ourselves, in specific our tribal versions, we basically killed off the people who knew how to take care of the earth, destroying thousands of years of knowledge that likely was passed down form word of mouth.

    Go back further, during the inquisition and during other times of war, entire libraries with thousands of books were burned, knowledge which could have advanced us much sooner was vanished out of existance due to religious reasons. Now it's still happening, as we are as inefficient as we have ever been.

    We have 6 billion people, maybe 2 billion are surviving, the other 4 billion live in complete poverty, and we arent using them for anything. We could be using these people to go into space and build on the moon, or mars, or any planet we want. We could build huge solar spaceships, and literally live in space cities floating around if we wanted to, we have the man power, the brain power, the will, the need, the only thing we lack is the heart. We hate ourselves to the point of inefficiency, just think about it, if all 6 billion people got together to do something, yes we could do it. We built pyramids, we went to the moon, it's all a matter of what we choose to focus on. We can focus on dominance of the planet and it's resources until theres nothing left to do,minate but ourselves, and then dominate ourselves out of existance, or we can move into space and take on aliens, or whatever the hell is in space. Since we don't even know whats up there, it would make sense to find out, I mean what else is there to do down here besides kill ourselves, fight over resources, starve,work, and watch the environment fall apart?

    And no, we will not be able to take our wars into space like starwars if there are aliens in space, in fact if aliens don't like us they'd infect us with a virus and wipe us out and we'd have no defense for it. We can't even deal with stuff like HIV and the avian flu, if a virus came that spread through the air that killed instantly, it would likely kill everyone off before they could cure it, or worse if a virus just made us go insane and destroy ourselves the same result would happen.

    Basically, humans will likely go extinct, it won't be any aliens that do it, if we cannot get along with each other we certainly can't get along with any aliens and would likely be killed off as soon as aliens discover us. Aliens would simply kill all humans and then fly their saucers down to the earth to live on whatevers left. Why would humans be useful to aliens? We don't make good slaves, we are violent, and the humans that arent violent and who do make good slaves get bullied out of existance by aggressive groups of people. Trust me, there are no aliens, and if there were, we'd never get to meet them, they'd wipe us out and take our resources just like we do to ourselves, because they'd play the game the same way we play it, just wipe us out and take the earth.

    When might makes right, and as a species we decide to consciously live by that rule, if there are aliens, even if these aliens are not aggressive, they will see that humans are aggressive and there will be no dialog, no diplomacy, no deal, no communication, we would never discover they even exist, we'd simply be wiped out, likely in such a way that we can't stop it, and likely to simply steal the earth from the monsters(humans) that are destroying it.

    So if you put yourself in the perspective of alien, what the hell would you do if you saw some monsters on earth destroying it, you'd simply kill all of them, and then land your ship, very much like if you saw anything else infested with pests, like roaches,. So the same response humans would give in the situation, assume aliens would give that exact response to us, assume we are pests. You know, maybe we had a choice to choose between being pet or pest, but if we can't take care of ourselves, or the planet, we won't be able to take care of aliens, or be useful in any way, not intellectually, not scientifically, aliens would have no reason at all to ever communicate with a species that has a gun to it's own head. Why should alienns care to talk us our of suicide if we want it so badly as to spend ALL of our thoughts trying to find new ways to do it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 19, 2006 @04:16AM (#16498729)
    Without spiritual advancement, any technological advancement will only become more and more dangerous, to ourself, not earth itself mind you.

    We're actually declining, just like the Roman empire, while thinking we're advancing. It's quite sad to see so many blind people around the world waiting for someone to save them, instead of getting away from the idiot-box and start improving the world with their fellow human beings.

    The ignorant masses are counting many orders of magnitude more than those who are starting to take responsibility. Yes, this includes most those who are reading and commenting on Slashdot.
  • by bensch128 (563853) <> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @07:23AM (#16499675)
    On the timescale of the earth (5 billion years), having all traces of your civilization disappear within 2 million years is NOTHING!

    I bet that if we were clever enough, we'd be able to find another ape-like species which lived on earth, evolved an advanced civilization and then disappeared because of a climatic event. The sun has remained stable for so long that it's inconcevible that it didn't occur before, likely long before the dinasours ruled the planet. We just need to find evidence of it, maybe in one of the great extinctions in the past.

    Just an idea I had,
  • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @07:51AM (#16499967)
    "Destroying the planet" is a fabrication of the environmental movement to frighten people into changing their behavior. All it really means is that we would render it uninhabitable for us. I do not think nature would care on way or the other if we detonated every nuclear bomb we have ever built, it would be nothing more than a tiny blip on the graph of the history of the planet. Squirrels and beavers and snakes might be screwed in the short term but that doesn't consitute destroying the planet. Like in Aldo Leopold's cycle, everything we vaporize with bombs will eventually be rebuilt into something else.

    Everything else in your post, refreshingly above the usual banter of 12 year olds.

  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WhiplashII (542766) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @08:17AM (#16500259) Homepage Journal
    Why do you think that it has value? The are almost certainly a million other Earth-like planets in our Galaxy - are they more valuable than ours?

    They have no value because anything that is unused by the valuer has no value by definition - if I am the valuer, and I am human, something I cannot see/use/experience has no value. An Earth without humans has no value to humans - and we are the only ones that really count. If you don't believe that, please shoot yourself - but not the rest of us, please.
  • Think of this... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by codefungus (463647) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @08:19AM (#16500289) Homepage Journal of the principals of evolution is overpopulation. Having more animals than the environment can support will result in survival of the fittest. There is no way around that. However, we have yet to reach that point. We still have room to grow as a species. What will the human landscape look like when we have reached the point of overpopulation? What other species will we have displaced and brought to the point of extinction when we get to that point? At that point in time, will the only animals existing be some marine animals, humans, rats, cockroaches and pigeons?
    We are smart enough to invent atomic bombs, factories, automobiles, styrofoam Big-Mac containers, but will we be smart enough to compensate for our overpopulation? Will we be able to do so before mass disease runs rampant and elimates a huge percentage of our population?
    In the end, the ultimate question is, are we too smart? Will evolution and the rules of life take its course and remove us becuase we have passed that threshold of intellegence and are on the wrong side?
    Our options are A) Learn to live with the planet to ensure resources are abundant enough to support our species (this can include 300 story apartment buildings in Kansas and eating some kind of man-made protien) B) Increase the size of our environment (Moon, Mars) C) Suffer massive losses.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @01:06PM (#16504697) Homepage Journal

    The current level of atmospheric CO2 is higher than any in known history. Trying to conserve its current state is not impossible, except perhaps at our current level of technological development. Saying it's impossible is stupid, because nothing that has been observed is impossible, there are simply things we don't understand about it yet (and we cannot achieve sufficient energy output yet, either.) One thing that we know about progress, however, is that it continues.

    Global warming through excess CO2 was happening well before life developed here

    That's nice, but also irrelevant. Of course it was, because without some lifeform to change it back, the O gets bound up, largely into CO2.

    The early history of the planet is one of volcanism, which naturally is going to produce CO2. However, today we produce more CO2 than volcanoes, on an average yearly basis.

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.